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Cooking Party - Iron Chef Challenge (Secret Ingredient: Refreshing)

I've been invited to a cooking party this weekend, and to make things interesting, the hosts have decided to turn it into a friendly competition. It's an Iron Chef Challenge, and the secret ingredient is refreshing. While it's ambiguous ingredient/inspiration, I find myself at a loss. I have no idea what I'm going to make. Please, I need tips, advice, etc. Ideally, I would like a dish that's not complicated, and can be easily taught to the group (that's a component of the challenge, too...so we can learn from each other).

Thank in advance!

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  1. I don't understand, or I'm a dolt (which is highly possible)--what do you mean by refreshing? I think of leftovers. Translation?

    1 Reply
    1. re: pine time

      I believe that it's more inspiration than an ingredient. Outside of that, I can't think of any other explanation.

    2. I would think something with a light texture (not greasy or heavy) and acidic notes would fit the bill. Something with lemon and herbs, maybe something cool. I'd pick a favorite summer recipe, something like a light salad with grilled meats and a lemon vinaigrette, or maybe a dip or spread made with yogurt, for the tangy fresh taste.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sarahjay

        a salad made of watermelon, tomatoes, basil/mint, and feta

        1. re: sarahjay

          I agree. Cucumber salad in summer is the most *refreshing* in my cooking arsenal.

        2. That sounds like fun, attran99!

          When I think of refreshing, I think of granitas, sorbets, and cold soups. Can it be any course? If dessert, that's easy. We just had brunch at a place up here in SaMo Place and the dessert was super cool & refreshing - panna cotta with strawberry-orange-sake salsa, and I believe the sake was made into a gelatin w/ some strawberry or red juice from the fruit, it was incredibly light and refreshing, the whole bit. Really lovely with impressive presentation.

          A blender gazpacho could be refreshing. So can a vodka tonic ;p)).

          5 Replies
          1. re: Phurstluv

            Thanks, Phurstluv!
            Yes, it can be any course...I agree...desserts, drinks, and salads are the easiest route to this challenge. That panna cotta sounds amazing, but perhaps maybe too many components for this event...I have to teach the guests how to make it in a demonstration, too.
            I'm liking your gazpacho idea. Got any recipes in mind to suggest? I think a granita or sorbet might be too obvious...I need points for originality, too :)
            However, I would probably win by default if I whipped up some sangria and vodka tonics!

            1. re: attran99

              I don't have a gazpacho recipe, since I don't eat it. But I'm sure you can find one easily that would suit your tastes.

              I don't even want to show you the picture of the dessert, then you'll be mad cuz you'll want to make it, but I think you're right, too many complicated components to that dish to demonstrate. But panna cotta by itself is pretty refreshing and easy to make, it's essentially an Italian milk pudding that can be made with a number of ingredients. And you're right, a sorbet or granita is too obvious. Let me go slice & clean my leeks and get back to you if I think of anything else!

              1. re: Phurstluv

                First thought was Gazpacho, my recipe is not blended. If interested let me know.

                1. re: JEN10

                  I've never heard of an unblended gazpacho. Please feel free to share the recipe. You might end up teaching us all something new :) Thanks!

                  1. re: attran99


                    3/4 C. FRESH LEMON JUICE

                    4 MED. TOMATOES CHOPPED

                    3 SMALL BELL PEPPERS DICED

                    1 ENGLISH CUCUMBER DICED

                    1 MED RED ONION DICED

                    1/2 C. CHOPPED PARSLEY

                    2 CLOVES GARLIC MINCED

                    2. C. BEEF BROTH/BULLION

                    1 T. SALT

                    1/2 TSP FRESH GROUND PEPPER

                    1/2 - 1 TSP. CAYENE PEPPER

                    1 TSP SWEET PAPRIKA

                    3/4 C. EVOO



          2. When I think of refreshing, cucumbers and watermelon always come to mind. So do super fresh raw oysters...

            Maybe some oysters on the half-shell with a shallot/cucumber/ponzu mignonette?

            3 Replies
            1. re: inaplasticcup

              While oysters would be great...I've never shucked an oyster before. And from the carnage that I've seen on Top Chef, et. al. I think I'm going to not brave that this time around. I do love the idea...if it were on a restaurant menu, I'd order that in a heartbeat.

              1. re: attran99

                LOL. You're probably wise not to. A friend once lost part of the pad of her index finger shucking oysters. We were really young at the time, so luckily it grew back to where you really couldn't tell unless you looked hard. :|

                1. re: attran99

                  How funny...guess it depends how you come up ...here in the coastal South all the kiddos shuck thier own oysters.

              2. I like the gazpacho idea...

                What about Ceviche?

                5 Replies
                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                    Please point me to a recipe if you have one. I've never made ceviche before.

                    1. re: attran99

                      Ceviche is usually some protein from the water, mixed with any number of raw veg combinations but usually minimally onions and tomatoes, and cooked in the acid of whatever citrus juice(s) you're using. But here's a recipe from Rick Bayless using cooked shrimp, which I think is a good idea on your first go round with it. His recipes are usually pretty tasty.


                      And if you fried up some corn tortilla chips to scoop up the ceviche, your friends will probably love it. :)

                      1. re: attran99

                        cooks illustrated has a very simple ceviche recipe:

                        This one is also very good:
                        ...though not the real deal since I think they say to cook the seafood... I'd go with Cooks, myself

                        1. re: attran99

                          I look forward to reading the recipes in the morning! Thanks for your helpful tips!

                    2. fresh summer rolls with a nice dipping sauce or even a few sauces.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mleighn

                        I'm Vietnamese...the summer roll idea, while good...is a tired menu item for me...and considered unfair because my recipes for the dipping sauces are my Mom's. Wouldn't be an even playing field for my friends :)

                      2. Oh, I know. I have a great Gourmet recipe for Cucumber cups stuffed with Crab-wasabi-lime salad, and they were pretty easy to make and refreshing.

                        Also, a F&W recipe for a cold soup - Spicy Cucumber -Avocado soup, also super easy and refreshing.

                        Let me know if you'd like the recipes. : ))

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Phurstluv

                          Phurstluv, I think you're on to something. The cucumber cups sound perfect. Please feel free to share recipes :)

                          1. re: attran99

                            I will have to paraphrase this recipe for you when I return from an appointment this am.

                            1. re: attran99

                              attran, Phurstluv asked me to post this recipe for you as she's having issues accessing the site:

                              Wasabi Lime Crab Salad in Cucumber Cups

                              Makes about 60 hors d’oeuvres

                              If you make the components ahead, stir together the filling ingredients just before serving the first batch. Keep the remaining filling chilled, covered and spoon it into the remaining cucumber cups as platters need replenishing.

                              4 seedless cucumbers (hothouse English style), peeled
                              ¼ cup mayonnaise
                              4 tsp. wasabi paste
                              2 tbsp fresh lime juice
                              ¾ tsp of salt, or to taste
                              6 medium radishes
                              1 (3 oz) container of radish sprouts or baby pea shoot
                              ½ lb jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over

                              Prepare cucumber cups:

                              Cut cucumbers crosswise into generous ½-inch slices. Cut a fluted round from each slice with cookie cutter (if desired), then scoop out some flesh from center of each round with melon ball cutter or a small spoon, creating an indentation but leaving bottom intact.

                              Prepare filling:

                              Whisk together mayonnaise and wasabi, then whisk in lime juice & salt.

                              Cut radishes into very thin slices. Halve slices, then cut crosswise into very thin strips. Trim radish sprouts to 1-inch lengths, measuring from top of sprout and discard remaining stems. (If using pea shoots, cut sections with leaves into 1-inch pieces.)

                              Stir together crab, wasabi mayonnaise, radish strips and sprouts, then put a small spoonful into each cup.


                              Cucumber cups can be formed (but not filled) 1 day ahead and chilled covered with plastic wrap.

                              Wasabi mayonnaise can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

                              Radishes can be cut and sprouts trimmed 1 day ahead and chilled separately in sealed plastic bags lined with dampened paper towels.

                              Crabmeat can be picked over 1 day ahead, covered and chilled.

                              Good luck! :)

                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                That recipe sounds amazing! Thanks so much for sharing!

                                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                                    That does sound yum...I fear that if I make it none will arrive at the party because i'll be eating them myself. :)

                            2. re: Phurstluv

                              That sounds so tasty, Pl! I want recipe too. :)

                            3. Refreshing to me means doing something different than what yall are used to....for example if you are west coast do something southern..etc

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: LaLa

                                What's light and southern and not a beverage (because I think making a drink would be a cop out)? Southern food, to me, is comfort food. Warm, rich, inviting...much like tomato bisque and grilled cheese on a cold winter's day. I think my friends wouldn't see it from your point of view.

                                1. re: attran99


                                  1. Serving to refresh or reinvigorate someone.

                                  2. Welcome or stimulating because new or different

                                  Your friends are unfamiliar with the complete definition of refreshing?

                                  Refreshing doesn't have to have anything to do with being "light"....that is just YOUR perception. I just thought it might be cool to do something that was unexpected ie refreshing....but if your friends wont "get" that.....

                                2. re: LaLa

                                  The same here, LaLa! When I here refreshing, I think of stepping out of the proverbial box. For example, I recently made a salad, I think it was from Radically Simple, of cherry tomatoes, strawberrie and mozarella, that I thought was super refreshing. Something with a surprise, old dish in a brand new way.

                                3. Maybe try Sushi- almost everyone loves it and everyone always wants to hear more about it. This is the most amazing recipe I've ever tried- Deli Roll Sushi With Dipping Sauce http://bit.ly/gCMaju and this an article you may find interesting http://bit.ly/nggiyj Have fun and happy cooking!

                                  1. I think the gazpacho idea is great but I am a hater of traditional gazpacho - all that raw tomato, blech. However, I have a wonderful recipe for a white grape gazpacho from a restaurant in Chicago - it is sweet-ish, but not dessert sweet, and is an amazingly light palate-teaser that I think would fit the bill for your competition perfectly! It also couldn't be easier to make (if you have a blender). Here you go:

                                    WHITE GRAPE GAZPACHO
                                    FROM JOSE S. GARCIA AT CAFÉ ABSENTHE, CHICAGO.

                                    Yield 1 gallon (The chef said this serves 12, but I would think an 8oz serving is probably plenty as a starter course, so you could cut it in half if you want an appetizer for 8 people).

                                    2 lb White seedless grapes removed from stems
                                    1 English cucumber peeled and chopped
                                    1/2 bunch scallions, greens only
                                    2 oz Cream cheese
                                    2 1/2 C. Half and Half
                                    1 1/2 oz. white wine vinegar
                                    1 1/4 C. plain yogurt
                                    1 oz olive oil
                                    1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
                                    2 tbs. Sugar (may need adjusting depending on grapes)
                                    Salt and white pepper to taste

                                    1/2 bunch dill
                                    3 tbs slivered almonds toasted
                                    1 tbs chives, chopped

                                    Puree all ingredients, except dill, almonds and chives. Strain through a mesh strainer and adjust seasonings. Garnish with chives, almonds and dill as desired.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: biondanonima

                                      +1 on the green gazpacho - we love to serve it in the summer.

                                      We also like to serve canapes that have a refreshing base, rather than bread or a cracker. We serve salmon mousse on a cucumber slice (garnished with dill), and smoked trout mousse on a radish slice (garnished with chive). Always a big hit.

                                      Here are easy recipes for the mousses:


                                      Also, we were pleased to find smoked trout always available in the freezer case in the supermarket seafood dept.

                                    2. Thanks to all who helped contribute to this post. The final results...there were no final results because we didn't end up judging the dishes. But that's okay, it was all in fun.
                                      I ended up making Phurstluv's crab/lime/wasabi salad in cucumber cups...and they were indeed amazing. I took it up one level and added some salmon roe for garnish. My friend passed on Jose Andres' gazpacho recipe, and I garnished that with grilled garlic chicken and grilled shrimp...and I decided to make that, too. It was a fun afternoon of good food with great people.
                                      Some highlights from the meal: Thai papaya salad, Kani salad (with imitation crab, cucumbers, mayo, and salmon roe), pan-fried tilapia with citrus sauce, beer ice cream, shiso-lemon-lime-mangosteen sorbet, and mint-jalapeno limeade.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: attran99

                                        Everything sounds delicious! And that sorbet sounds amazing...

                                        Glad everything went well! :)

                                      2. I think that is a difficult ingredient and one that will be equally hard to judge if you make on one. But heck, it's a good reason to have a party I say!

                                        I was looking at blog early in the morning since I couldn't sleep. I started on tasty kitchen and ended up on la fuju mama site. She has a taco that is made with kiwi, cucumber, shrimp, daikon ,carrot and spicy sauce tacos. They looks scrumptious, I can't wait to try her recipes.